Barrie residents called for government action to help combat the local opioid problem at a town hall meeting that was held by MP Alex Nuttall on Wednesday evening.
“Barrie, in 2017, was listed as the third-highest municipality in Ontario, with a population of over 100,000, the third highest of overdoses,” said Evelyn Pollock, a Barrie resident, at the meeting Wednesday. “We’re still saying it’s not a public health emergency.”
Pollock’s son passed away when he was 43 of an unintentional fentanyl overdose. “He did have a long history of addiction and recovery,” Pollock said. “When he died at the age of 43, he was at the best time of his life.
“There is hope when we understand what the problems are and we work toward solutions,” she added.
Natalie Harris, Barrie councillor of Ward 6, was a paramedic for 11 years. “When I got sick because of PTSD in 2012, I had no other way to deal with the demons that were in my mind, other than to abuse my prescription drugs and abuse alcohol,” Harris said.
In 2014, the councillor was able to go to residential treatment.
“I can tell you from experience as a paramedic, a majority of people who were suffering in front of me because of an opioid overdose or an addiction to opioids were because they were prescribed by a doctor,” Harris said. “We need to open our minds and decrease the stigma.”
WATCH: Understanding the opioid crisis in Ontario
According to Nuttall, who serves Barrie, Springwater and Oro-Medonte, basic services for substance abuse are not in place in Barrie.
“I don’t believe that we’re a) spending enough money,” Nuttall said. “B) I don’t believe we’re spending the money efficiently or effectively.”
“What I think we’re missing, especially here in Simcoe County, is the ability to service those and help those who are in desperate need of life-changing help,” he added.
Melissa Hurst is a Barrie resident whose 19-year-old son passed away from an accidental fentanyl overdose.
“He was good soul,” Hurst said. “We have to hold our politicians municipally, provincially and federally accountable.”
Both Hurst and Pollock told Global News that Barrie needs an appointed person who is going to co-ordinate the services that are addressing the opioid crisis.
“I think things like outreach workers are very important on the streets — not just nine to five but all day,” Pollock said. “Having someone…develop a relationship with people on the street and help them find housing, addiction services and treatment — that’s what we need.”
The town hall meeting occurred following the announcement that a location had been identified for Barrie’s proposed supervised consumption site at 90 Mulcaster St.
“We need to be for the people who are struggling,” Hurst finished. “We need to be here as a community and we need wraparound care.”